Transcript Sports Writer

Oklahoma's search for a new baseball coach appears to have headed north.

Friday, longtime Wichita State coach Gene Stephenson emerged as a serious candidate for the position, The Transcript has learned.

Stephenson, who is from Guthrie, was an assistant at OU under Enos Semore from 1972-1977. He's been the Shockers coach for the last 28 seasons and won over 1,400 games.

At first glance, it might appear a stretch Stephenson would leave the powerhouse he's built at Wichita State to return to a program he left almost three decades ago. Then again, as recently as 10 weeks ago he was fawning over his former employer.

"The University of Oklahoma has always been my favorite institution," Stephenson said prior to the Shockers' game against Oklahoma May 3 at L. Dale Mitchell Park. "I think probably everybody knows that. Fortunately, I have a job."

It isn't the first time Stephenson has flirted with returning to OU.

Stephenson turned down an offer to return to OU coach in 1990. OU hired Cochell instead.

Stephenson is one of three coaches who have joined interim coach Sunny Golloway as serious candidates for the position.

Wednesday, multiple sources told The Transcript LSU coach Smoke Laval was a candidate to become OU's next head coach. However, Laval told the Baton Rouge Advocate no interview has been scheduled.

"I haven't talked to anybody," he said. "I don't know how this got out. I have no idea."

LSU athletic director Skip Bertman also told the Advocate OU athletic director Joe Castiglione has not asked for permission to speak to Laval.

Bertman, who won five national titles in 17 seasons as LSU's baseball coach before becoming athletic director, said he and Castiglione have discussed other coaches, though.

"No one called me (about Laval), but that may still be a possibility," Bertman told the Advocate.

OU interim coach Sunny Golloway and Hawaii coach Mike Trapasso have both received formal interviews for the job.

A source told The Transcript a decision on the next Sooner baseball coach is expected within the next few days.

John Shinn 366-3536 jshinn@normantrans

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